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2 Samuel 15-18 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 15

Absalom’s Ambition. After this, Absalom provided himself with chariots, horses, and a retinue of fifty. Moreover, Absalom used to rise early and stand alongside the road leading to the gate. If someone had a lawsuit to be decided by the king, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he replied, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe of Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “Your case is good and just, but there is no one to hear you in the king’s name.” And he would continue: “If only I could be appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a lawsuit to be decided might come to me and I would render him justice.” Whenever a man approached him to show homage, he would extend his hand, hold him, and kiss him. By behaving in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king for judgment, Absalom was stealing the heart of Israel.

Conspiracy in Hebron. After a period of four years, Absalom said to the king: “Please let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. For while living in Geshur in Aram, your servant made this vow: ‘If the Lord ever brings me back to Jerusalem, I will worship him in Hebron.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace,” and he went off to Hebron. 10 Then Absalom sent agents throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “When you hear the sound of the horn, say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’” 11 Two hundred men had accompanied Absalom from Jerusalem. They had been invited and went in all innocence, knowing nothing. 12 Absalom also sent to Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, an invitation to come from his town, Giloh, for the sacrifices he was about to offer. So the conspiracy gained strength, and the people with Absalom increased in numbers.

David Flees Jerusalem. 13 An informant came to David with the report, “The Israelites have given their hearts to Absalom, and they are following him.” 14 At this, David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem: “Get up, let us flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Leave at once, or he will quickly overtake us, and then bring disaster upon us, and put the city to the sword.” 15 The king’s servants answered him, “Whatever our lord the king chooses to do, we are your servants.” 16 Then the king set out, accompanied by his entire household, except for ten concubines whom he left behind to care for the palace. 17 As the king left the city, with all his officers accompanying him, they halted opposite the ascent of the Mount of Olives, at a distance, 18 while the whole army marched past him.

David and Ittai. As all the Cherethites and Pelethites, and the six hundred Gittites who had entered his service from that city, were passing in review before the king, 19 the king said to Ittai the Gittite: “Why should you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and you, too, are an exile from your own country. 20 You came only yesterday, and today shall I have you wander off with us wherever I have to go? Return and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show you kindness and fidelity.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, your servant shall be wherever my lord the king is, whether for death or for life.” 22 So the king said to Ittai, “Go, then, march on.” And Ittai the Gittite, with all his men and all the dependents that were with him, marched on. 23 The whole land wept aloud as the last of the soldiers went by, and the king crossed the Wadi Kidron with all the soldiers moving on ahead of him by way of the ascent of the Mount of Olives, toward the wilderness.

David and the Priests. 24 Zadok, too, and all the Levites bearing the ark of the covenant of God set down the ark of God until the whole army had finished marching out of the city; and Abiathar came up. 25 Then the king said to Zadok: “Take the ark of God back to the city. If I find favor with the Lord, he will bring me back and permit me to see it and its lodging place. 26 But if he should say, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ I am ready; let him do to me as he sees fit.” 27 The king also said to Zadok the priest: “Look, you and Abiathar return to the city in peace, and both your sons with you, your own son Ahimaaz, and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 Remember, I shall be waiting at the fords near the wilderness until a report from you comes to me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and remained there.

30 As David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went. 31 When David was told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom,” he said, “O Lord, turn the counsel of Ahithophel to folly!”

David and Hushai. 32 When David reached the top, where God was worshiped, Hushai the Archite was there to meet him, with garments torn and dirt upon his head. 33 David said to him: “If you come with me, you will be a burden to me; 34 but if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘Let me be your servant, O king; I was formerly your father’s servant, but now I will be yours,’ you will thwart for me the counsel of Ahithophel. 35 You will have the priests Zadok and Abiathar there with you. If you hear anything from the king’s house, you shall report it to the priests Zadok and Abiathar, 36 who have there with them their two sons, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. Through them you shall send on to me whatever you hear.” 37 So David’s friend Hushai went into the city, Jerusalem, as Absalom was about to enter it.

Chapter 16

David and Ziba. David went a little beyond the top and Ziba, the servant of Meribbaal, was there to meet him with saddled donkeys laden with two hundred loaves of bread, an ephah of cakes of pressed raisins, an ephah of summer fruits, and a skin of wine. The king said to Ziba, “What are you doing with all this?” Ziba replied: “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on. The bread and summer fruits are for your servants to eat, and the wine to drink when they grow weary in the wilderness.” Then the king said, “And where is your lord’s son?” Ziba answered the king, “He is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore to me my father’s kingdom.’” The king therefore said to Ziba, “So! Everything Meribbaal had is yours.” Then Ziba said: “I pay you homage, my lord the king. May I find favor with you!”

David and Shimei. As King David was approaching Bahurim, there was a man coming out; he was of the same clan as the house of Saul, and his name was Shimei, son of Gera. He kept cursing as he came out, and throwing stones at David and at all King David’s officers, even though all the soldiers, including the royal guard, were on David’s right and on his left. Shimei was saying as he cursed: “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has paid you back for all the blood shed from the family of Saul,[a] whom you replaced as king, and the Lord has handed over the kingdom to your son Absalom. And now look at you: you suffer ruin because you are a man of blood.” Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king replied: “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” 11 Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants: “If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so! Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and repay me with good for the curses he is uttering this day.” 13 David and his men continued on the road, while Shimei kept up with them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went. 14 The king and all the soldiers with him arrived at the Jordan tired out, and stopped there to rest.

Absalom’s Counselors. 15 In the meantime Absalom, with all the Israelites, entered Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 When David’s friend Hushai the Archite came to Absalom, he said to him: “Long live the king! Long live the king!” 17 But Absalom asked Hushai: “Is this your devotion to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” 18 Hushai replied to Absalom: “On the contrary, I am his whom the Lord and all this people and all Israel have chosen, and with him I will stay. 19 Furthermore, as I was in attendance upon your father, so will I be before you. Whom should I serve, if not his son?”

20 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Offer your counsel on what we should do.” 21 Ahithophel replied to Absalom: “Go to your father’s concubines, whom he left behind to take care of the palace. When all Israel hears how odious you have made yourself to your father, all those on your side will take courage.” 22 So a tent was pitched on the roof for Absalom, and Absalom went to his father’s concubines in view of all Israel.

Counsel of Ahithophel. 23 Now the counsel given by Ahithophel at that time was as though one sought the word of God. Such was all the counsel of Ahithophel both to David and to Absalom.

Chapter 17

Ahithophel went on to say to Absalom: “Let me choose twelve thousand men and be off in pursuit of David tonight. If I come upon him when he is weary and discouraged, I shall cause him panic, and all the people with him will flee, and I shall strike down the king alone. Then I can bring back the rest of the people to you, as a bride returns to her husband. It is the death of only one man you are seeking; then all the people will be at peace.” This plan sounded good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.

Counsel of Hushai. Then Absalom said, “Now call Hushai the Archite also; let us hear what he too has to say.” When Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him: “This is Ahithophel’s plan. Shall we follow his plan? If not, give your own.” Hushai replied to Absalom, “This time Ahithophel has not given good counsel.” And he went on to say: “You know that your father and his men are warriors, and that they are as fierce as a bear in the wild robbed of her cubs. Moreover, since your father is a skilled fighter, he will not spend the night with the army. Even now he lies hidden in one of the caves or in one of his other places. And if some of our soldiers should fall at the first attack, whoever hears of it will say, ‘Absalom’s followers have been slaughtered.’ 10 Then even the brave man with the heart of a lion—his heart will melt. For all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and those who are with him are brave. 11 This is what I counsel: Let all Israel be assembled, from Dan to Beer-sheba, as numerous as the sands by the sea, and you yourself go with them. 12 We can then attack him wherever we find him, settling down upon him as dew alights on the ground. None shall survive—neither he nor any of his followers. 13 And if he retires into a city, all Israel shall bring ropes to that city and we can drag it into the gorge, so that not even a pebble of it can be found.” 14 Then Absalom and all the Israelites said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had commanded that Ahithophel’s good counsel should be thwarted, so that he might bring Absalom to ruin.

David Told of the Plan. 15 Then Hushai said to the priests Zadok and Abiathar: “This is the counsel Ahithophel gave Absalom and the elders of Israel, and this is what I counseled. 16 So send a warning to David immediately: ‘Do not spend the night at the fords near the wilderness, but cross over without fail. Otherwise the king and all the people with him will be destroyed.’” 17 Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En-rogel. A maidservant was to come with information for them, and they in turn were to go and report to King David. They could not risk being seen entering the city, 18 but an attendant did see them and informed Absalom. They hurried on their way and reached the house of a man in Bahurim who had a cistern in his courtyard. They let themselves down into it, 19 and the woman took the cover and spread it over the mouth of the cistern, strewing crushed grain on the cover so that nothing could be noticed. 20 When Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” The woman replied, “They went by a short while ago toward the water.” They searched, but found no one, and so returned to Jerusalem. 21 As soon as they left, Ahimaaz and Jonathan came up out of the cistern and went on to report to King David. They said to him: “Leave! Cross the water at once, for Ahithophel has given such and such counsel in regard to you.” 22 So David and all his people moved on and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, there was no one left who had not crossed.

23 When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not acted upon, he saddled his donkey and departed, going to his home in his own city. Then, having left orders concerning his household, he hanged himself. And so he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.

24 Now David had arrived at Mahanaim while Absalom crossed the Jordan accompanied by all the Israelites. 25 Absalom had put Amasa in command of the army in Joab’s place. Amasa was the son of an Ishmaelite named Ithra, who had married Abigail, daughter of Jesse and sister of Joab’s mother Zeruiah. 26 Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.

27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi, son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, Machir, son of Ammiel from Lodebar, and Barzillai, the Gileadite from Rogelim, 28 brought beds and covers, basins and pottery, as well as wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, and butter and cheese from the flocks and herds, for David and those who were with him to eat; for they said, “The people will be hungry and tired and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Chapter 18

Preparation for Battle. After mustering the troops he had with him, David placed officers in command of units of a thousand and units of a hundred. David then divided the troops three ways, a third under Joab, a third under Abishai, son of Zeruiah and brother of Joab, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the troops, “I intend to go out with you myself.” But they replied: “You must not come out with us. For if we flee, no one will care; even if half of us die, no one will care. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that we have you to help us from the city.” The king said to them, “I will do what you think best.” So the king stood by the gate as all the soldiers marched out in units of a hundred and a thousand. But the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” All the soldiers heard as the king gave commands to the various leaders with regard to Absalom.

Defeat of Absalom’s Forces. David’s army then took the field against Israel, and a battle was fought in the forest near Mahanaim. The forces of Israel were defeated by David’s servants, and the casualties there that day were heavy—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over that entire region, and the forest consumed more combatants that day than did the sword.

Death of Absalom. Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants. He was mounted on a mule, and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large oak tree, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule under him kept going. 10 Someone saw this and reported to Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him this: “If you saw him, why did you not strike him to the ground on the spot? Then it would have been my duty to give you fifty pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man replied to Joab: “Even if I already held a thousand pieces of silver in my two hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son, for in our hearing the king gave you and Abishai and Ittai a command: ‘Protect the youth Absalom for my sake.’ 13 Had I been disloyal and killed him, it would all have come out before the king, and you would stand aloof.” 14 Joab replied, “I will not waste time with you in this way.” And taking three pikes in hand, he thrust for the heart of Absalom. He was still alive in the tree. 15 When ten of Joab’s young armor-bearers closed in on Absalom, and killed him with further blows, 16 Joab then sounded the horn, and the soldiers turned back from the pursuit of the Israelites, because Joab called them to halt. 17 They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest, and built up a very large mound of stones over him. And all the Israelites fled to their own tents.

18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and set it up for himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to perpetuate my name.” The pillar which he named for himself is called Absalom’s Monument to the present day.

David Told of Absalom’s Death. 19 Then Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said, “Let me run to take the good news to the king that the Lord has set him free from the power of his enemies.” 20 But Joab said to him: “You are not the man to bring the news today. On some other day you may take the good news, but today you would not be bringing good news, for in fact the king’s son is dead.” 21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed to Joab and ran off. 22 But Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said to Joab again, “Come what may, permit me also to run after the Cushite.” Joab replied: “Why do you want to run, my son? You will receive no reward.” 23 But he insisted, “Come what may, I want to run.” Joab said to him, “Run.” Ahimaaz took the way of the Jordan plain and outran the Cushite.

24 Now David was sitting between the two gates, and a lookout mounted to the roof of the gate above the city wall, where he looked out and saw a man running all alone. 25 The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said, “If he is alone, he has good news to report.” As he kept coming nearer, 26 the lookout spied another runner. From his place atop the gate he cried out, “There is another man running by himself.” And the king responded, “He, too, is bringing good news.” 27 Then the lookout said, “I notice that the first one runs like Ahimaaz, son of Zadok.” The king replied, “He is a good man; he comes with good news.” 28 Then Ahimaaz called out and greeted the king. With face to the ground he paid homage to the king and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who rebelled against my lord the king.” 29 But the king asked, “Is young Absalom safe?” And Ahimaaz replied, “I saw a great disturbance when the king’s servant Joab sent your servant on, but I do not know what it was.” 30 The king said, “Step aside and remain in attendance here.” So he stepped aside and remained there. 31 When the Cushite came in, he said, “Let my lord the king receive the good news that this day the Lord has freed you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32 But the king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom all right?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you with evil intent be as that young man!”

Footnotes:

  1. 16:8 Blood shed…Saul: probably refers to the episode recounted in 21:1–14.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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